A Green Social Action Plan for Sifnos
Wind of Renewal – the social cooperative enterprise for the promotion of the green and social economy – prepared through a participatory process a comprehensive proposal for a Green Social Action Plan for Sifnos, a proposal for the transition of the island to a more green and socially just and resilient model, with the role of the social economy being particularly important. The Plan was formed within the framework of the GRAPE project in which Wind of Renewal (Anemos Ananeosis) and the Municipality of Sifnos participate.
It is a proposal to the Municipality, the stakeholders, institutions and citizens of Sifnos but it can, when completed, be a pilot for similar action plans for other islands. The proposal is the result of diagnosis, SWOT analysis, research, several discussions, workshops and conferences, for two years, but also of the utilization of good practices from other similar regions, especially the regions of the GRAPE project partners and small islands participating in the SMILO network.
The objective of the Action Plan
The aim of the Action Plan is to launch a debate on strategic issues for the future of Sifnos and in general small islands that have similar issues. And to help address them through a strategic green and social transition towards a more sustainable and resilient model. It includes findings and proposals that may be familiar to many residents as they are widely discussed and captured in the SWOT analysis, but these issues must be addressed in a systematic, organized and coherent manner. It also includes topics that are not discussed among the local community, such as climate mitigation and adaptation (reduction of rainfall, reduced crop yields, heat waves, increase of sea temperature, the gradual expansion of invasive species in the marine ecosystem of Sifnos.
Key elements of the Action Plan of concern are: the landscape, land uses and the gradual reform of the tourist model from summer tourism (which will shrink in some years due to the heatwaves and high temperatures that will prevail in summer), the uncontrolled and unplanned promotion towards a sustainable “cool tourism”, mainly in spring and autumn, which will respect the island’s strengths and will mainly focus on forms:
- of ecotourism, given that the in good condition and unique for an island NATURA 2000 area, the network of 200 km of paths, the water paths and the numerous herbs and aromatic plants of the island are a material basis that can support such a model,
- agritourism, which will also help in the recovery of agriculture, using the important tradition of gastronomy and cultivation of local seeds and varieties,
- cultural tourism, following the paths of pottery workshops, ancient towers, windmills and watermills, traditional – bioclimatic settlements, buildings of great importance (agricultural buildings, churches and monasteries) as well as numerous mines.
The Plain includes also suggestions for:
- regenerative agriculture in Sifnos, the importance of local seeds but also the contribution of olive cultivation, the preservation of drystones and the protection of nature and healthy soil to climate protection;
- new environmental roles for farmers and other professions in the context of the green transition.
The climate crisis and adaptation to the new climate conditions. Energy transition
In the Action Plan, proposals are formulated for the participation of Sifnos in the energy and green transition, and the exit from fossil fuels by 2035.
In addition to the proposals made for the acceleration of energy efficiency and the shift to adapted applications of renewable energy sources, as well as the signing of cooperation agreements between the Wind of Renewal and the other partners of the project in matters of energy and green transition, social resilience and agro-food sector, two innovative proposals are also made for the creation of:
- an open climate ecological laboratory where the changes that take place in the island ecosystem and especially in the NATURA region due to the climate crisis will be monitored systematically and over time, and good climate adaptation practices will be researched, utilizing solutions based on nature based solutions);
- an open laboratory for the search and testing of energy applications of renewable energy sources that are best suited, adapted to the characteristics of small and medium-sized islands.
The role of drystone
The plan highlights two new approaches:
– recovery of cultivation and agriculture in general in Sifnos, through highlighting its role in climate protection (e.g. absorption of greenhouse gases through olive cultivation or healthy soil) as well as in the restoration of nature and the preservation of genetic diversity (recording and strengthening the cultivation of local seeds and varieties that we have recorded under the SMILO-MED program and the Action Plan under GRAPE);
–maintenance of the drystones walls network in the context of an essential policy of climate mitigation and adaptation, tackling the climate crisis and strengthening the defense against extreme weather phenomena (resilience). One of the proposals being explored is the creation of an “autumn school for drystone walls techniques” for the theoretical and practical training of those interested, based in Sifnos, and the organization of similar actions in other islands.
Protection and sustainable management of the natural wealth and the NATURA area of Sifnos
Sifnos has a very interesting natural area (NATURA 2000). The Action Plan highlights proposals so that its protection and management contribute not only to the preservation of the important ecosystem but also to the creation of green jobs and the well-being and sustainable future of the entire island.
Furthermore, regarding the great importance of the social economy for the green transition, strengthening social structures and upgrading the capabilities of the local community, the Action Plan contains proposals regarding its in support of: climate policy; regenerative agriculture; social services, especially the creation of new care services for the elderly who face many problems; resilience to new health threats accompanying climate collapse; the green transition, environmental infrastructure, eco-tourism and guided tours, protection and management of the NATURA area and natural resources; the shift towards a more sustainable model of tourism, guided tours and the creation of new itineraries (cultural, local production, ancient technology, etc.); supporting structures for the local community and finding financial tools to support the changes required in terms of education, training, investments for the green transition, exploring (new) sources of funding for green infrastructure and social structures.
The Action Plan was made public in early August for comments and additions and it has been shared in the most extensive manner. After new observations and integration of the proposals submitted after its publication, the final Green Social Action Plan for Sifnos will be officially presented to the new Municipal Council that takes over from 1/1/2024 and hopefully will be discussed in February 2024.
Taking into account the corresponding Action Plans of the other partners participating in the GRAPE project, a document with proposals and recommendations will be drawn up and addressed to the European Commission and the European Parliament. It will also address European networks related to issues discussed in the Action Plan, while also including good examples from Sifnos and other islands that could be used by the members of the SMILO small islands network.
This document reflects the views only of the Author and the GRAPE Consortium. The Commission cannot be held responsible for any use wich may be made of the information contained therein.